Raymond Hernandez of the New York Times: "Under intense pressure from New York and New Jersey officials, the House on Friday adopted legislation that would provide $9.7 billion to cover insurance claims filed by individuals whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. The measure is the first, and least controversial, portion of a much larger aid package sought by the affected states to help homeowners and local governments recover costs associated with the storm. The House has pledged to take up the balance of the aid package on Jan. 15."
Jonathan Martin of Politico has an interesting piece on how Republican leaders are planning to head off their crazy base at the pass. Of course that's not how Martin puts it, but that's the plan -- trying to give potential Tea Party candidates the bum's rush.
Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "Most of the new class of Senate Democratic freshmen say filibuster reform should require senators to actually hold the floor and debate if they want to block legislation."
Speaker Squeaker. Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "House Speaker John A. Boehner narrowly won reelection Thursday to a second term overseeing a chamber that has proved difficult for him to manage, surviving a rebellion from the most conservative wing of the Republican caucus."
Weaker Speaker. Greg Sargent: Boehner's close victory "all but ensures that the only way the House will be able to pass solutions to our remaining problems ... will be with large blocs of Democratic support. This, in turn, risks weakening Boehner further, and means governing compromises will be very hard won in the months ahead."
The Orange Man & the Turtle Plan Ahead. Steve Benen: "... according to public comments from McConnell and Boehner, Republicans seriously believe President Obama must accept $2.7 trillion in cuts -- without raising taxes at all -- within the next two months. And if not, there will be an enormous crisis. And what is it, exactly, that GOP leaders expect to cut by $2.7 trillion? Oddly enough, they haven't said...." ...
... Benen again, on the same topic: "President Obama may not want to negotiate over the debt ceiling, but as far as the GOP is concerned, the president doesn't have 'any choice.' ... One of the things I worry about at this stage is a false sense of routinization -- much of the political world has already started to look at debt-ceiling fights as routine, which is the exact opposite of reality. It's a manufactured crisis -- and a legitimate national scandal -- that was largely unthinkable before 2011, which the GOP hopes to normalize with the media's help."
Kevin Drum: "Spending isn't our big problem. The recession spike of 2008 aside, it's about the same as it was 30 years ago. But instead of paying for that spending, we've repeatedly cut taxes, which are now at their lowest level in half a century. Tax revenue will go up as the economy improves, but even five years from now it will still be lower than it was when Reagan took office.So what's our real problem? That's simple: America is getting older and healthcare costs are rising. That means we'll need to spend more money in the future on Social Security and Medicare. There's simply no way around that unless we're willing to immiserate our elderly...."
The Petulance Plan. Oddly enough, Jonathan Chait thinks Boehner's plan to never, ever negotiate with President Obama is batshit crazy.
Mention of batshit crazy is apt to bring to mind Michele Bachman. Adam Peck of Think Progress: "The 112th Congress gaveled to a close on Thursday afternoon without passing a relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy or reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, but [at 12 noon Thursday] Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) ... introduced the very first piece of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which states are now busily implementing. House Republicans have unsuccessfully voted 33 times in the last two years to eliminate health care reform and wasted at least 88 hours and $50 million...." ...
... Speaking of La Bachmann, you might enjoy a gander at her Twitter feed. Apparently, the teeming masses are not all that impressed with her legislative chops. ...
... Nonetheless, it turns out that it is to LaKook of the North -- & a few others who switched their votes at the last minute from abstain to Boner -- that the Weeping Wallower owes his job.
What is a Speaker to do
When he barely survives a House coup
And can't take the trauma
Of seeing Obama? --
Drink up & cry boo-fuckin'-hoo.
Sorry, couldn't help myself. Thanks to Kate Madison for the punchline.
Walter Shapiro: "For all the unnecessary pyrotechnics, for all the missed opportunities over the past 18 months, rationality triumphed over ideological extremism in Washington this week. And if this precedent helps prevent America from defaulting on its debts when the government runs out of borrowing power in March, so much the better.... Mitch McConnell and John Boehner deserve muted, but sincere, applause for bringing the anti-tax Republicans back from the brink."
Ian Millhiser & Annie-Rose Strasser of Think Progress have a lovely retrospective on "Ten People We Are Grateful Are No Longer Members of Congress."
Ezra Klein bids "Good Riddance to the Rottenest Congress in History." He includes the metrics of their abysmal failures.
Paul Krugman: "... in a tactical sense the fiscal cliff ended in a modest victory for the White House. But that victory could all too easily turn into defeat in just a few weeks [if Obama doesn't hang tough on the debt limit]."
Ta Ta, Timmy. Hans Nichols of Bloomberg News: "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner plans to leave the administration at the end of January, even if President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans haven't reached an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, according to two people familiar with the matter. After giving in to Obama's previous entreaties to stay as long as needed, Geithner has indicated to White House officials and Wall Street executives that he is unlikely to change his departure plans this time, increasing pressure on the president to name his successor at Treasury...." ...
... Rachelle Younglai of Reuters: "Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's plans to leave near the end of January put the White House in a tricky spot...." ...
... Paul Krugman: "I hate to say this, but I find this reassuring. While I have no insider information here, I've had the sense that Geithner has consistently been a voice urging the president to cave in for fear of upsetting the markets, with no real concern for the dangers of giving in to blackmail."
Dana Milbank: Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) Thursday "morning pronounced himself placated with House Speaker John Boehner's offer to have the Hurricane Sandy relief bill passed in two pieces over the next two weeks. As for him [sic.] criticizing his fellow Republicans' 'indifference,' 'disregard' and 'cavalier attitude,' the lawmaker said, 'I stand by what I said at the time.' But he's revising and extending his remarks. 'John is really a voice of reason in our conference, despite some of the things I said yesterday,' King told [Matt] Lauer" of NBC News. ...
... CW: Yesterday I linked to a post by Alex Koppelman of the New Yorker on how our recidivist Congress won't do anything to give the nation a better future -- like prepare the East Coast to better withstand the growing incidence of hurricanes. Comes now Kevin Drum of Mother Jones with a long, fascinating piece on how children's exposure to even moderate levels of lead is a cause of violent criminal behavior later in life (I first heard about this only weeks ago, so it's still fresh info to me). But lead abatement is possible. Drum writes, "We can either attack crime at its root by getting rid of the remaining lead in our environment, or we can continue our current policy of waiting 20 years and then locking up all the lead-poisoned kids who have turned into criminals." You know, paint & gasoline no longer contain lead additives because previous Congresses said they couldn't. Now try to imagine this Congress taking Drum's advice. This is why it is so disheartening to have a Congress Full of Jerks.
Julia Preston of the New York Times: "Obama administration officials unveiled rules on Wednesday that will allow many American citizens -- perhaps hundreds of thousands -- to avoid long separations from immediate family members who are illegal immigrants as they apply to become legal residents." CW: revising Draconian rules like these is the kind of thing a Romney administration would never have done. Ever. People who think the parties are equally bad just don't know what they're talking about. ...
... David Nakamura & Tara Bahrampour of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration[s decision this week to ease visa requirements for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants represents its latest move to reshape immigration through executive action, even as the White House gears up for an uncertain political fight over a far-more-sweeping legislative package in the months ahead."
They're very upset about this over in Right Wing World:
... Please, Wolf, you have no right to tell our Tea Party golden boy he can't have everything his way.
One-Man Senate. CW: I meant to run this yesterday & forgot. Harry Reid on New Year's Day:
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg discusses gun control on Jimmy Fallon's show:
** James Downie of the Washington Post: "The only reason for inaction [on the Violence Against Women Act] from [Eric] Cantor and others, frankly, is that many House Republicans simply do not truly care about women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence. Women, in turn, will rightly continue to shun the Republican Party."
** Ethan Bronner of the New York Times: "... laws are needed to remove [DNA] databases from the exclusive grip of prosecutors and law enforcement to make them available to defense lawyers." CW: couldn't agree more. In a system where an accused is presumed innocent, why shouldn't a convicted criminal be given access to information that might re-establish his innocence? Again & again, prosecutors have proved to be little dictators who will do anything to save a conviction, even when there is significant exculpatory evidence. Let's put a tiny bit more justice in our so-called justice system.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: "President Obama's inaugural planning committee will announce this morning that -- surprise! -- Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will deliver the oath of office to Mr. Obama when he is sworn in for a second term later this month.... The president gets to pick who will swear him in, and Mr. Obama has selected the chief justice to deliver not one, but two, oaths to him: first in a small official ceremony at the White House at noon on Sunday, Jan. 20, the constitutionally mandated date and hour for the swearing-in, and again as part of the public inaugural festivities scheduled for Monday, Jan. 21." CW: let's see if Roberts can properly recite the oath this time.
Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Barney Frank, one day out of Congress, said on Friday that he has asked Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to send him back as an interim senator when Sen. John Kerry becomes secretary of state.... Frank said he wouldn't run for Kerry's seat in a special election, which would most likely take place this summer. Other names mentioned as a possible caretaker for Kerry's seat include former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and former Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Margaret Marshall -- who crafted the historic ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the Bay State."
Regrets Analysis. Howard Schneider of the Washington Post: "Consider it a mea culpa submerged in a deep pool of calculus and regression analysis: The International Monetary Fund’s top economist [Thursday] acknowledged that the fund blew its forecasts for Greece and other European economies because it did not fully understand how government austerity efforts would undermine economic growth." CW: when are people gonna figure out Krugman is (almost) always right?
Bloomberg News: "Employers added workers in December at about the same pace as the prior month, and the unemployment rate matched a four-year low, showing sustained gains in the U.S. labor market even as lawmakers were struggling to reach a budget deal."
New York Times: "The Securities and Exchange Commission has decided not to file insider trading charges against David L. Sokol, a onetime top lieutenant at Berkshire Hathaway, Mr. Sokol's lawyer said Thursday. Mr. Sokol came under scrutiny in 2011 after abruptly resigning as chairman of Berkshire's MidAmerican Energy Holdings, one of the many holdings of the investment conglomerate run by the billionaire Warren E. Buffett."
AP: "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is being treated for 'respiratory deficiency' after complications from a severe lung infection, his government said, pointing to a deepening crisis for the ailing 58-year-old president. Chavez hasn't spoken publicly or been seen since his Dec. 11 operation in Cuba, and the latest report from his government Thursday night increased speculation that he is unlikely to be able to be sworn in for another term as scheduled in less than a week."
AP: "A 15-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting girls' education has been released from a Birmingham, [England,] hospital to live with her family, doctors said Friday. Photographs released by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham showed Malala Yousufzai hugging nurses, waving and smiling shyly."
ABC News: "U.S. Sen. Michael Crapo is facing a hearing Friday in a Virginia court on a drunken driving charge. The Idaho Republican has said he doesn't plan to contest the allegations." CW: Crapo, a Mormon, has said he doesn't drink.
... Washington Post Update: "Sen. Michael Crapo (R-Idaho) pleaded guilty Friday to drunk driving following a December arrest in Alexandria, and issued a sweeping apology after a judge accepted his plea. Crapo, who appeared in Alexandria District Court, was sentenced to 180 days in jail, all of which was suspended. His license was suspended for a year, but he's eligible for a restricted license. Crapo must also pay a $250 fine and complete an alcohol program over the next year."